Photos by Blaire Davis Mugume

Hudah Tamale is no stranger to pivoting. When she began her business in 2015, she thought she could make money selling cakes. To attract new customers, she started offering herbal teas as a marketing strategy. However, she soon found herself becoming more excited over her tea products. After recognizing where her true passion lay, she shifted her business strategy and started focusing entirely on selling tea.

When the COVID-19 lockdown began, Tamale found herself needing to pivot her business, Nash Royal Tea, again. With social distancing measures in place, she needed to rely more heavily on digital marketing strategies. Luckily, she had already learned many of the skills that she would need through the Stanbic Business Incubator.

Today, she has a digital marketing strategy incorporated into her business plans and maintains an active online presence that has helped her through the pandemic. For women entrepreneurs struggling, she stresses the importance of digitizing. “If you don’t have an online presence right now, you are almost nonexistent in business right now,” she warned.

Women entrepreneurs in Uganda and worldwide have had to face a rapidly changing business environment while still taking care of their children full-time once the schools closed. Even in regular times, women entrepreneurs face well-documented barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Men are more likely to have the right information, training, and guidance to inform their dealings with financial institutions and plan effectively for their businesses in the long-term.

Through business development services, training, networking events, and mentoring, the Stanbic Business Incubator offers an enabling ecosystem for entrepreneurs to protect and grow their businesses. The incubator also provides participants with opportunities to engage with subject matter experts and access markets and finance. By joining the Stanbic Business Incubator, women entrepreneurs can take advantage of opportunities that they may have not otherwise had.

“Women entrepreneurs are a great resource to this country from our training we have come to realize that women play a very vital role in how enterprises are run and how enterprises are actually sustained over long period of time. Our commitment to the support of women especially the women entrepreneurs is one that we cannot deviate from. we have for a long time decided to have quota set for women entrepreneurs to be able to see them participate and enjoy the benefits of our training program. our commitment therefore is not a one of one off intervention. Many women have been part of this whole story especially after the realization that the lockdown or covid was going to impact on many businesses for a long time. we’re certain that we can be very much in partnership with a lot of women entrepreneurs to scale them to fir their dreams.”  said Tony Otoa, Executive Director, Stanbic Business Incubator Limited.

Meet Rachel Lubega

When she heard about the incubator from a friend, Rachel Lubega had already co-owned her corporate event business, Quality Management Services LTD, for 18 years. However, despite the longevity of her business, she believed she still had room to grow. “I felt excited because I love learning, getting training, and gaining new skills,” she said.

As part of the training, she joined a cohort of service providers that included some of her competitors. Through networking and personal bonding, she began to see her competition as potential business partner. “We even were able to get business together. It was great having to create that kind of relationship with our competitors,” she added.

Not only was she able to create business opportunities through networking, but she became more adept at auditing, bookkeeping, and digital marketing. To the benefit of her business, she transferred many of these new skills she was learning to her employees.

Like Tamale, Lubega found particular value in the seminars on digital marketing. “At the time, we had the website, but it wasn’t very active. But now I know the importance of having an active website.” She added that implementing digital strategies and maintaining a web presence has made a beneficial difference for her business during the pandemic.

As businesses across Uganda adjust to the “new normal”, so has the Stanbic Business Incubator. “We have had to rethink our program, going away from the typical classroom lecture mode into online tutorials and lectures,” said Otoa in a recent interview. He added that the shift made entrepreneurs hopeful because of a shared need for information on financial management, governance, and other issues critical to business survival in an economic downturn.

Participants are still able to network at the Incubator even though the classes are online.

“They introduce themselves at the start of every session and are given provision to state what each of their businesses is about, share experiences, and share their contact information with other participants,” said Nadia Ayaa, Program Coordinator, Stanbic Business Incubator Limited.

The switch from a classroom setting to online tutorials also creates more flexibility for women entrepreneurs, who often balance household responsibilities and business ventures. Instead of going to a classroom, they can access the training at the comfort of their home or office.

For more information about the Stanbic Business Incubator Limited, please call
0312 226 700